Report from ODPP Gizo office
THE cancellation of Magistrates court circuits due to the shortage of principal magistrates has affected the disposal rate of matters handled by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) branch in Gizo, Western Province.
This is according to the 2014 annual report from the ODPP branch in Gizo compiled by Principal Legal Officer Andrew Kelesi who was stationed there.
Mr Kelesi stated in the report that Magistrates’ court circuits were conducted in February, March and April.
“In the February and March circuits matters were simply mentioned and adjourned to the next circuit,” he said.
“In April two matters were completed during the circuit.”
Mr Kelesi stated that after the April 2014 circuit, it became apparent that Magistrates court circuits could not be sustained due to shortage of principal magistrates.
“The Acting Chief Magistrate sent a circular advising all court users that all provincial court circuits will be suspended indefinitely.
“This affected all principal magistrate tours to all provinces.”
He said although Court circuits were suspended, it did not affect the Police Prosecutions Division, whose cases are presided over by Second class Magistrates because they are not complex.
“Second Class Magistrates continued sitting throughout the year.
“The cancellation of Magistrates court circuits due to the shortage of principal magistrates affected the disposal rate of matters handled by the ODPP Gizo Office.
“The ODPP in Gizo handles complex cases that a Second Class Magistrate has no jurisdiction over.”
He stated in the report that the situation raises the need for a Resident Principal Magistrate in Gizo.
In relation to High Court circuits, he said 2014 were more regular than in previous years.
“So far three circuits were held from April to May, and four circuits were held from June to December.
“All outstanding cases were called at each circuit, reviewed and given a hearing date.
“That gave long notices to parties to prepare for trials. At least one trial was completed during every court circuit.”
He said other applications like bail and remand were also dealt with as required.
“It is pertinent to mention that all cases dealt with during the Gizo circuits were sex offences ranging from indecent assault to rape.
“Out of the seven trials the Crown obtained four convictions, one acquittal and discontinued two matters by tendering nolle prosequi (to no longer prosecute).”
He said no circuit has been conducted in November last year because the police were committed to the general elections.
Mr Kelesi said all the police resources were geared towards the elections.
In that month the Resident Prosecutor attended trainings in Honiara and prosecuted matters in the Honiara High courts.
In light of trainings, he said the ODPP office in Gizo provided regular trainings for Police Prosecutors and Investigators in Gizo and surrounding Islands.
In his report, he stated the trainings covered important areas of prosecutorial work, such as The Evidence Act 2009, How to tender exhibits and other topics.
“Training on important areas of criminal investigations such as how to conduct caution interviews, Judges Rules, what evidence to gather, How to gather evidence, Elements of offences and other topics were conducted.
“The resident prosecutor provided ongoing support to prosecutors in their preparation and presentation.”
He also stated that three matters that required the immediate attention are shortage of Magistrates, a Court Users Forum and a good office space for the ODPP.
“The disposal rate of Magistrates court cases has been very slow since the exit of the last two Principal Magistrate Advisers in December 2013.
“The present ODPP office space does not meet health and safety requirements.
“There has been no forum for court ushers to meet to discuss challenges encountered by different agencies and stake holders and how to address those challenges.”
Mr Kelesi concluded that he is pleased that in 2014 the ODPP Gizo branch efficiently and effectively discharged one of the main objectives in the office Corporate Plan, which is to make justice accessible to people in our rural communities.